In the past months, we’ve spent time talking about how to act with intention and grow our emotional intelligence as leaders. But we’ve yet to tackle one of the most powerful emotions: fear. Fear is, perhaps, the emotion that dictates our lives more than any other. It demands a high level of energy to deal with and can even cause physical symptoms: ulcers, hypertension, insomnia, and more. It impacts our moods and our day-to-day interactions with the people around us. So how can we as leaders take our fear and harness it into becoming more courageous leaders?
Fight, Flight, Ignore
Fear takes our view of the world and demands we do one of three things: we conquer a problem, we endure a problem, or we escape a problem. Our reactions depend on the paradigm through which we view our world and the events happening around us. To understand how to respond to fear, we must first pinpoint each of our own paradigms, or the filter we use to process events happening in the external world in order to access an inner experience.
The first filter is the paradigm of Achievement. People accessing this paradigm are the most likely to respond to fear with “fight.” They are goal-oriented, see life as a competition, and are often dedicated to proving themselves. By responding to fear with the knee-jerk reaction to strike back and hide their weaknesses, Achievers will often inadvertently cause conflict as they try to lash out and blame others around them instead of taking responsibility themselves.
The second paradigm is Duty. Those who filter the world through Duty, like their Achiever counterparts, are often after external approval from those around them. They are often resigned to the status quo and dependent on those around them. People viewing the world through a Duty paradigm are the most likely to ignore their fear. However, ignoring any problem, including fear, never solves anything personally or professionally.
Finally, the third paradigm is that of Fear itself. When someone allows fear to grow to the point of becoming a paradigm itself, we see them become highly reactive. They chase anything that makes them feel secure. They’re highly suspicious, quick to blame others, and are plagued with feelings of inadequacy. Fear reduces us to base-level instincts.
Perhaps you’ve recognized yourself in one of these paradigms. So what can we do to better process our fear and turn it into something productive? We must change our paradigm to one of Integrity.
Acting with Integrity
Changing our paradigm is both straightforward and extremely hard. When something happens in our external world that causes fear, PAUSE, try to act and process it with Integrity. People who filter the world in this way are often conscious of their own thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
They take responsibility for their actions, and despite their fear, they work to make themselves vulnerable and open to those around them. They take risks, because they are confident in their own adequacy and trust that their team will back them up.
As leaders in a business, we should all strive to process the world around us and act with Integrity. We all will experience fear as a part of our daily lives. It is, unfortunately, an inescapable part of being a human, and especially of being a leader. Our teams expect things of us, and that can often lead to feelings of fear and insecurity: What if I let them down? What if I’m not enough? What if they don’t like me or my decisions? The problem isn’t feeling the fear or anxiety—rather, it’s a question of how you allow it to influence how you filter external factors into your inner experience.
Like anything, developing a paradigm of Integrity takes acting with intention and patience. When you ground yourself in the knowledge that you are capable and adequate, you will be more likely and willing to take risks in your business, secure in the knowledge that you have the skills to back things up. Not sure where to start? Contact Leadership Delta today. We’ll help you filter your fear into a more confident leader.